Shirl Jae Atwell earned a bachelor of music education degree from Kansas State Teachers College, a master of music theory/composition degree at the University of Louisville, and completed four years of post-graduate work in composition at the University of South Carolina.
In 1984 she won the Clifford Shaw Memorial Award for Kentucky Composers; was commissioned to write Fear Not, Little Flock for the 175th anniversary of the Little Flock Baptist Church; and saw the New York City debut of her first opera, Sagegrass. In 1991, another of her operas, Esta Hargis, premiered at Emporia State University in Kansas, followed shortly by the 1992 debut of Handelian, a work for string orchestra premiered by the Jefferson County All-County Middle School Orchestra. Louisville’s Southern Baptist Seminary Orchestra premiered her Movements Four South, an orchestral suite, in 1993. That year also saw the placement of six Shirl Jae Atwell scores in the permanent collection of the Paris Bibliotèque Internationale de Musique Contemporaine at the invitation of the Contemporary Music International Information Service.
Ms. Atwell was named the 1996 winner of the National School Orchestra Association composition contest with her string orchestra piece Modus á Four. She is also the 1997 winner of the Texas Orchestra Directors Association contest with a string orchestra piece entitled Drifen.
Most recently, Lucy, with music by Ms. Atwell and choreography by Alun Jones, was premiered by the Louisville Ballet in January 1999. Lucy, inspired by the discovery of a 3.2 million-year-old skeleton, was the subject of a Kentucky Education Television documentary which aired on Nov. 10, 1999. In June 2000, the televised production of Lucy was awarded the Arts & Culture Emmy by the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. In July, a Certificate of Merit was awarded to Lucy by Unda-USA, the National Catholic Association for Communicators. Finally, in January 2001, Lucy was awarded 2nd place by the National Education Television Association for program performance.
An active composer with many commissions and publications to her credit, Ms. Atwell still finds time to serve as a full-time string orchestra educator with the Jefferson County Public Schools, Louisville, Kentucky. She maintains active membership in ASCAP, Music Educators National Conference, ASTA with NSOA, Texas Orchestra Directors Association, and Kentucky Music Educators Association.
You can visit her site at sjaea.home.mindspring.com.